Note: The SSDI, SSI disability system is federal and nationally standardized, though there are state differences in approval rates, wait times, the number of appeals available–as of the time of this writing–and even the name given to the stage disability agency (DDS, or the Bureau or Division of Disability Determination). Now, to answer the question…
At the first two levels of the system, the disability application and the reconsideration appeal, disability examiners do not have a reputation for giving great consideration to the opinion expressed by your treating physician, which is simply defined as a physician that has a history of providing treatment to you and, therefore, is knowledgeable about your condition and limitations.
However, at the disability hearing level, things change substantially. Administrative law judges are bound by federal regulations to give consideration to the opinion of your treating physician as long as that opinion is in accordance with the information provided in their own medical records.
And even in situations where the opinion they express deviates from the information in the medical records, Judges must still give some consideration to the physician’s medical opinion.
But, most importantly, the opinion of the claimant’s treating physician can sometimes be granted what SSA refers to as “controlling weight” on a case. And this can amount essentially to winning your case.
Without a doubt, a qualified statement from the claimant’s Treating physician can improve the chances of winning a North Carolina disability hearing and win the claimant their disability benefits.
How is the statement obtained? There are numerous instances in which a claimant has provided a hand written statement from their doctor that simply states the equivalent of “my patient is disabled and not able to go back to work”.
This, of course, is not what Social Security is looking for. As we have stated previously, Social Security needs to have evidence of functional limitations, either physical or mental, or both, that indicate that the claimant no longer has the ability to engage in work activity that earns them a substantial gainful income.
It is for this reason that a disability lawyer or non-attorney representative in North Carolina will typically, for the purposes of a disability hearing, obtain a statement from a physician on something referred to as a “medical source statement”.
The medical source statement is basically the same thing as an RFC, or residual functional capacity, statement, which is used by a disability examiner most often to deny a case. At a hearing, of course, the statement is used to explain exactly why the physician feels that the claimant cannot be expected to return to work activity.
The statement does this by allowing the physician to indicate in great detail all the things the claimant is no longer capable of doing with regard to their physical and mental capabilities.
Very often, the medical source statement will resemble some type of check off list which will allow the physician to indicate what level of strength the claimant has, their range of motion in various joints, how long they can sit, stand, or walk, any reduction in their ability to see, hear, or smell, their ability to navigate even and uneven surfaces, tolerate heights, understand and remember instructions, learn new tasks, interact with coworkers and supervisors…and the list goes on.